- The Washington Times - Friday, March 20, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - The National Rifle Association on Friday appealed a federal court ruling that blocked a Bush administration policy allowing people to carry concealed, loaded guns in national parks.

The decision, issued Thursday by U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, halted a regulation from the waning days of the Bush administration. The rule, which took effect in January, allowed visitors to carry a loaded gun into a park or wildlife refuge as long as the person had a permit for a concealed weapon and the state where the park or refuge was located allowed concealed firearms. Previously, guns in parks had been severely restricted.

Chris W. Cox, the NRA’s chief lobbyist, said the group will pursue all legal and legislative options. The NRA had pushed for the Bush rule change and was granted legal standing in a lawsuit brought by gun-control advocates and environmental groups.

“We didn’t give up in the fight to change the old, outdated rule and we are going to pursue every legal and legislative avenue to defend the American people’s right to self-defense,” Cox said Friday.

In her 44-page ruling, Judge Kollar-Kotelly called the Interior Department’s rule-making process “astoundingly flawed” and said officials failed to evaluate the possible environmental impacts of the rule change, as required by law. The judge set an April 20 deadline for the Interior Department to indicate its likely response to the preliminary injunction she granted.

The Obama administration had said it was reviewing the Bush rule but had defended it in court. A spokeswoman for Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says the department is reviewing its options.

Sen. Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat who pushed for the Bush rule change, said Friday he was not giving up.

“I’m an avid supporter of the Second Amendment, and I will continue to fight on behalf of gun owners,” Baucus said. “I will continue to push so that any law-abiding citizen, in accordance with state law, can carry their guns in national parks.”

Meanwhile, several groups representing park employees praised the judge’s ruling.

“We have said from the beginning that the (Interior Department) was proposing a solution for a problem that did not exist,” said Bill Wade, former superintendent of Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park and chairman of the executive council of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees. “The department presented no evidence during its rule making that a change was needed.”

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